Apr 27, 2016

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Devonian

I'm excited to share with you a great new product from Devonian. It's called GREEMU, "The Green alternative to Emu Oil".

Awhile back, I was given the wonderful opportunity to try out Emu Oil. I loved it and it did wonderful things for my skin. It made quite a difference in my rosacea symptoms. Even to the point where some of my triggers were no longer triggers as long as I used the oil regularly.

I'm not really into oils as a full time thing, but emu oil made such a difference for me that I like to tell people about it. Only thing is, the response I usually get is, "What about the emus? How do they feel about you using their oil?"

Or something similar. I feel so much better when I use it that I tend to think that the emus should be happy to donate to the cause, but apparently there are others who love emus and my face equally well.

These people are scientists who work for Devonian and who have researched and worked and researched and worked some more until they found a suitable compromise: GREEMU.




Greemu Devonian Review
This is a plant based oil with the same properties as Emu Oil. Basically, the scientists just kept mixing different plant oils together until they found a blend that replicated Emu Oil. You can read about the ingredients, certificate of analysis and directions on their website
I used GREEMU mostly on my face. It was similar too, but slightly different from the Emu Oil. When I first apply it, it feels oilier and even a little sticker than Emu Oil. But I need less of it and it absorbs into my skin in about half the time. It isn't quite as effective as Emu Oil, but it does certainly get the job done well enough. I feel as though it would be a viable alternative for those who are concerned about animal products. 
GREEMU is not just good for rosacea, though. It hydrates skin, reduces wrinkles, promotes healing of damaged skin, conditions hair, and won't clog your pores! Be aware, though, that you can only take it externally and it is not for people who are allergic to plant oils!
I have enjoyed using GREEMU and feel that it does what it claims. Click on the banner below to see what other Crew members have to say about their experience.
Greemu Devonian Review
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Apr 22, 2016

Planning for Next Year: 8th Grade Plans

I usually start thinking about the next school year in January. But this year, here it is nearly May, and I am only just starting to jot down plans. Mostly, this is because this year, everything worked so well that we will pretty much be just continuing to use what we are already using. There are a few new things and a few things I need to figure out, but mostly it will just be keeping on keeping on. Here is what I am thinking so far:

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Kaytie, 8th grade:

Math: Math U See Pre Algebra
(yes, I'm scared!)

We split up our Language Arts into many different parts, using products that best fit our needs in each area:

Grammar: Fix It! Level 3 Frog Prince. We love, love. love Fix It! My only regret is not knowing about it and using it sooner.

Writing: We were given a set of the One Year Adventure Novel. So we will be doing it without all the online frills, but I think she is going to love it and get a lot of out anyway. She is so very excited to start this! She is a little irritated with me that I am making her wait until the fall. :)


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Spelling: All About Spelling (She will finish up Level 6 and complete Level 7. I don't expect it will take her the entire year. When she is finished with Level 7 she is done with spelling instruction forever!)

Literature: This is a new subject for her. We dabbled some with it in 7th grade, but could never really find anything that worked for us. So we are going to create our own. She needs absolutely no encouragement to read. Sometimes, though, she does need a little nudging to get out of a rut and into new and exciting books. So she will have a reading list, just so I am confident that she reads everything I want her to. She will also learn some basic literary terms (she knows a lot of them, but I want to just fill in all her gaps), write about what she reads, and ask and answer a lot of questions about her reading.


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Art: She and I haven't discussed this yet. Art is one of her favorite electives and she knows more about it than I do, so she definitely has a lot of say in what we use. I have my eye on a how to draw comic strip book  but we also have Artistic Pursuits at hand. She will probably use a combination of both while adding in a lot of free drawing from youtube tutorials and a class from a local teacher.

Piano: Hopefully, she will continue with lessons. If not, I am confident she will work on her own to learn and improve.

Bible: Still working our way through Bible Study Guide for All Ages. Kaytie and Nate are getting a little bored of it, but it is still the best I have found, so we will continue using it for now.


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Science: She and Nate will (hopefully) finish up Apologia General Science over the summer. Then they will start Apologia Physical Science in the fall. I already own it, so we will just move seamlessly from one to the next whatever the time frame happens to be.

Spanish: She will continue working through Duolingo. I am hoping to get the kids into a conversational sort of class, but I don't know if that is a possibility around here. They are definitely to the point that they need to start speaking the language.

Latin: It will not be a favorite, but she will definitely be doing Visual Latin this year. She doesn't think she "needs" Latin. That may be true, but she is going to learn it anyway.

Logic: The Thinking Toolbox. We are all looking forward to this!

Typing: She doesn't think she needs this, either, but a little practice never hurt anybody, so she will be dabbling into Typing.com


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Geography: We had fun and learned a lot about Europe this year doing our own Hoggard Geography. So we will tackle another continent this year using the same method.

History:
First, we will be reading and working our way through the Middle Ages in our own carefully crafted Hoggard History.

Also, we will be experiencing the Epic Glory of Texas History using The Story of Texas as a spine. I am really hoping to post our plans here because there is such a dearth of really good curriculum for Texas History. We are only going to do it once, all together, because I am expecting it to be a lot of work!

And she still needs to chose an elective (or two, if she wants) for high school credit.

As I post the other grades, I will link them up here:

Nate (7th grade): coming soon!

Daniel (5th grade): coming soon!

Abbie (4th grade): coming soon!


Apr 15, 2016

Boy Scout Life

Daniel went on his first official Boy Scout camp last weekend. Doesn't he look all grown up and yet so adorably cute at the same time?


See his camo hat? Camo is his new favorite color.

I'm so proud of both my boys. They are great kids.



They had a great time at camp. So great, in fact, that this is what happened after they got home.


Apr 13, 2016

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Homeschool Copywork

I have four kids. All of those kids have, to some extent or other, an allergy to handwriting. Some of them had a lighter case than others. Some of them have outgrown it. Some of them have the handwriting of a doctor. Some of them will still do just about anything than write by hand.

So as you can imagine, I am always on the lookout for more enjoyable, engaging ways to get these people to work on improving their handwriting. That's where Homeschool Copywork comes in. We were given a Lifetime Membership to the site and have spent the past few weeks exploring it.


Homeschool Copywork Review
Now, copywork is a staple for Charlotte Mason schoolers. It is used for learning handwriting, spelling, grammar, character, and more. But even though we lean toward CM, we don't actually use it that way. We learn our grammar and spelling more directly and use copywork mainly for the gargantuan task of making our handwriting legible. 
We have used a lot of different products for this purpose, and some are easier than others. But most of the easy-to-use ones are mainly for younger kids. It's getting harder and harder to muster the kids' enthusiasm over little kid copywork. But when they still need the practice, what's a mother to do? 
Homeschool Copywork meets this need. Because it offers selections not just for little preK kids learning to write the alphabet, and not just for early elementary kids practicing their legibility, and not even just for upper elementary who are spreading their wings into cursive, but harder, longer selections for middle school and even high school kids. My twelve-year-old son asked for "the hardest one" and he was not disappointed when I showed him what that meant. He felt challenged. 
Homeschool Copywork is copywork created by a homeschool mom who saw a need and filled it. The site over fifty ebooks of copywork, notebooking pages, coloring pages, readers and artist studies. They are divided into Early Elementary, Upper Elementary and Jr High/High School so it is easy to search for what you want. Each group has Scripture verses, quotes from poets (Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson), authors (Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte), artists (Van Gogh, Monet), inventors (Da Vinci), musicians (Copeland, Beethoven, Bach) scientists (Audubon, the Wright brothers), hymns, science information, holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving) and stories. There are also some cute little alphabet books and readers for the little ones.
With so much to choose from, I took the easy way out and let each kid pick their own ebook. I was kind of hoping that two of them would pick the same book, so that I could use that to easily explain that the books offer copywork at several different levels. However, they didn't, so I am left awkwardly explaining to you that you could just choose one book and have all your kids work on the same quotes at their own skill level... So. You can do that. 
The quotes are in print, D'nealian font, and cursive. They also come with dotted lines for beginners and just regular lines for the older kids. This made it easy for us to pick what we wanted to do. Each child chose their "topic", I downloaded the book (it's a PDF) and then they could choose if they wanted beginner lines or regular. Some of them also got to choose print or cursive because they are in the in-between zone. 
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Kaytie (13) chose The Poems of Lewis Carroll Copywork. She doesn't normally do copywork, but she adores Jabberwocky and wanted to be a part of the excitement. So she worked on Jabberwocky quotes for the fun of it. This ebook is 40 pages long and starts with a short biography of Carroll. There are nine different selections of Carroll's poetry for the children to copy. The beginner pages have the dotted lines, of course, and also a little image to color. The regular lined pages offer a choice between cursive or print, and also have an image to color. 
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Nate (12) chose Leonardo da Vinci Copywork and Artist Study. While very similar to the Carroll book, in that it offers all skill levels, Da Vinci has 45 pages, uses quotes of his, and instead of coloring opportunities, has color pictures of various Da Vinci paintings. At the end of the book, there is another copy of each picture in "full page" size. This copy has the title of the painting, so that you can print them out and have a ready-to-go artist study. There are six paintings.
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Daniel (10) chose Dragons of the Bible Copywork and Notebooking Pages for All Ages. Not very surprising, huh? Dragons is 154 pages long. It not only offers the different skill levels of copywork, but notebook pages for each level with colorable dragons on the page and a full coloring page of each dragon at the end of the book. There are 24 sheets of copywork, using Scripture passages that contain the word "dragon". I, personally, did not find the dragon images to be that appealing, but my son? Oh yeah, he loved them. I expect he will get a lot of use out of this book over the next few years.
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Abbie (9) chose Vincent Van Gogh Copywork and Artist Study Volume 1. This one, I was pleased to see, had a title page clearly marking the break between each skill level. It offered "Ball and Stick Print", "D'nealian" and cursive on dotted lines as well as cursive and print on regular lines. It also had six of Van Gogh's paintings at the end for picture study. 

After making our choices, I printed off the pages we needed. Then we just inserted those pages into the time-slot in our day reserved for copywork. It was that simple and easy to use. The kids worked on their own sheets at their own pace and enjoyed it very much.


We really truly liked these copywork books. My older kids have never felt so challenged in their copywork selections. We like the variety offered. I peeked at some of the books for beginners and they are so cute! I feel like there is plenty here to keep us busy for awhile.


The one thing I didn't like about the site was that I had to download the ebooks in order to look through them. I wish there was a quick and easy way to just skim through them before I downloaded because I am a visual person!

There are three levels of access for Homeschool Copywork. First, there's some stuff that you can check out for free. Next, you can purchase a Full Membership that gives you complete access to everything for one year. And finally, you can grab yourself a Lifetime Membership of complete access that doesn't expire.


Homeschool Copywork Review
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Apr 7, 2016

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Stopmotion Explosion

Oh my. We have reviewed a lot of awesome products for the Review Crew, but there are a handful that just really stand out. Our most recent greater than great item is what I am going to tell you about today. Stopmotion Explosion sent us their Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit.


Stopmotion Explosion Review

The kit comes with everything needed to make some pretty amazing stop motion movies... animation software, a 720p HD camera with internal microphone and manual focus, and two guides to teach you what to do.


The first guide is a "quick start", for people who already pretty much understand stop motion and just need to know how to set up and run the software. It's a 12 page book in a easy-to-skim Q and A format that answers all those FAQ.

The other guide has a lot more heft to it. This softcover book has 290+ pages and explains the entire movie making process: how movies work; animating the actors; creating the stories; building the sets; the camera; lighting; composition; sound; editing; and more.

The CD has sound effects, a sound maker, and software to produce the movie by putting your pictures together. You do need some additional (free) programs to add the sound effects and to edit your work, but that is all explained thoroughly in the guide.

I intended this to be a great way for all the kids to practice their own personal skills while learning a new skill and also, to, hopefully, exercise their teamwork muscles a bit. However, it didn't quite turn out that way. This was really mostly a product for my techie twelve-year-old son.

Nate latched onto it right away, setting up the software on the kids' computer and reading through the book. He was able to successfully learn the material and to set it all up on his own. He had a great time learning how to work the camera and to take the types of videos that he wanted. He spent a lot of his free time reading, experimenting, and figuring it all out.


The other kids were not involved as much as I expected, although they did spend several enjoyable afternoons working on scripts and sets under Nate's watchful eye.

We also had some technical issues with downloading, but that was more user error than product error.

The initial set-up and actual use of the camera was easy for the kids to figure out and pull off. They made this fun little movie...





However, the more technical aspects: sound, editing, lighting, special effects, were a little beyond their skill level. I think this is the perfect thing to hand your high-school kid and expect them to soar. If you threw in some projects, deadlines, and expectations, I think you could even get a credit out of it.

I don't mind at all that it was hard for my kids. I don't think that is any sort of a con. I am looking forward to them, especially Nate, continuing to tinker with it, learn from it and rise to the challenge, for many years to come. After six weeks of hard use, there is still plenty of learning packed into the little yellow box!

The kids' said:

Kaytie: It was sort of easy. Writing the script for stop motion was a challenge. I see why this is recommended for high school kids, but once we figured it out, it was do-able for us middle school people.

Nate: It is amazing! It takes a little bit to get everything installed and to figure out what exactly you're doing, but the guide helps with all that. It explains everything. I would recommend it more for teenagers than for kids my age. 

Daniel: This was fun. I could do a lot of creative things. I liked it a lot! I liked that you could edit the pictures and add effects.

Abbie: It was really fun. I liked making the sets and helping with the script. It's cool how the thing makes all the little pictures into a real movie.

We highly recommend Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit!


Stopmotion Explosion Review
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Apr 5, 2016

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Trigger Memory Co

The Trigger Memory Co. sent us a download of their product Times Tales to review. Since Kaytie and Nate (7th and 6th graders respectively) have a pretty good handle on their multiplication tables, I put the focus for this review on Daniel and Abbie (4th and 3rd graders respectively).


Now I have heard of this product for years, and have heard a lot of great comments about it, so I was excited to finally get a chance to look it over for myself.

We received a huge zipped file download. It was so enormous that it proved a little tricky to get it all safely onto my computer, but once that was accomplished we had no more problems with it at all.


The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW


The download consisted of two video files and three printable PDFs (one is the answer key for the other two). The first video starts with all the instructions that you need for the program. It is divided into two parts (two different sets of facts) and the first part has six steps. You begin by watching the first part of the video, which takes about 30 minutes. That sounds like a long time, but it is an engaging "show" and kept my kids' attention easily. During this video, you meet all the fun characters, take a quiz, and then you learn some of their stories and take another quiz. The stories are the important part of the program. The stories tell the tale of each multiplication fact. Once you know the stories well enough to tell them yourself,  in the correct way (because the order matters!) you have a handy little memory device to recall the facts.

At this point, you are at step four and ready to practice the flashcards that are in the PDF file. This is when it is revealed to the kids that the math facts are actually hidden in the stories. The flash cards show the question parts of the story and the children are expected to recall the story and thus, the answer.

The final step of part one is to try regular flashcards, without the story symbols and then to practice the facts as division problems.

It is recommended that you have your child take a break in between the steps to review and practice part one before you start part two. This is where the worksheets and games on the PDF come in.


Part two is the same format as part one, with the rest of the facts. This method teaches you all the "harder" facts: the 3s, 4s, 6s, 7s, 8s, and 9s. It doesn't bother with 1s, 2s, and 5s, because those are so easy to learn on their own.

We found Times Tales to be super easy to use. I started the first video one afternoon and all the kids crowded around to watch. We watched it a couple more times, until both kids could ace the quizzes. Then we worked on the puzzles, quizzes and games from the PDFs. Then we repeated with the second video.

My kids found the stories to be just a little cheesy, but that didn't stop them from watching and it certainly didn't stop them from learning! After watching the stories several times, they found the worksheet portion to be super easy. All in all, it was a very successful method of teaching them their multiplication facts. I only wish I had found this earlier!


Daniel: I liked it because the stories were fun. It was easy to learn my facts this way and it was the most fun of anything we ever tried. 

Abbie: It was really fun. I learned a lot. My favorite part was the stories but the worksheets were fun, too. This way to learn facts was easier than any other way Mom has made me try.


I highly recommend Times Tales as a way to teach your child their multiplication facts because as a child, I put together stories for myself as a way to learn those pesky facts. It worked for me and this is a wonderfully easy way for my kids to use the same method.


Times Tales by the The Trigger Memory Co REVIEW
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